Testing is a critical part of preventing and containing the spread of COVID-19. If you have symptoms or had a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, you should be tested, regardless of your vaccination status.
Types of Testing
Test for a current infection by detecting either SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19
- A viral test tells you if you currently have an infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Viral tests use samples that come from your nose or mouth. This type of test is also called a diagnostic test.
- Rapid tests can be performed in minutes and can include antigen and some NAATs. Self-tests are rapid tests that can be taken at home or anywhere, are easy to use, and produce rapid results.
- Laboratory tests can take days to complete and include RT-PCR and other types of NAATs. Some test results may need confirmatory testing.
Test for a past infection by detecting antibodies that your body makes after getting COVID-19
- An antibody test tells you if you previously had an infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This type of test is also called a serology test. Antibody tests should not be used to diagnose a current infection but may indicate if you had a past infection.
How Can I Get A COVID-19 Test?
Community-Based Testing Sites
Free or low-cost COVID-19 testing is available to everyone in the U.S., including the uninsured, at select pharmacies, retailers, and health centers nationwide. The process and locations for COVID-19 testing vary from place to place.
At-home tests, or self-tests, are available for free across the country to everyone, regardless of insurance status. Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests. Order your tests now so you have them when you need them.
If you have private insurance coverage, you can order online, to a pharmacy, or to a store to buy a test and get reimbursed through your insurance, starting on January 15, 2022.
- If you are charged for your test, keep your receipt and submit a claim to your insurance company for reimbursement.
- Private insurance companies are required to reimburse up to 8 tests per month per individual on an insurance plan.
If you have Medicaid coverage, you can access at-home COVID tests at no cost through the guidelines established by your state Medicaid program. State Medicaid and CHIP programs are required to cover FDA-authorized at-home COVID-19 tests.
If you have Medicare coverage, you can access testing through your health care provider or local pharmacist or pick up free at-home tests at local pick-up locations. Learn about this program.
There are now locations where you can get tested and, if you test positive for COVID-19, you may also be eligible to receive treatment. If you test positive at a different location or with an at-home test, you can also go to these Test-to-Treat locations to receive a prescription from a qualified health care provider and treatment on the spot if eligible.
For those who have difficulty accessing the internet or need additional support placing an order, you can call 1-800-232-0233 to get help in English, Spanish, and more than 150 other languages. This call-line is open 8 a.m. to midnight ET, 7 days a week. There’s also TTY line (1-888-720-7489) to support access by hearing impaired callers.
Making COVID-19 Tests Safe and Available
HHS continues to safely accelerate the authorizations and availability of COVID-19 tests.
- In February 2020, the HHS Secretary declared that circumstances justified the authorization of emergency use for tests to detect and diagnose COVID-19.
- Medical countermeasures such as tests, devices, and drugs, may be used to understand and meet public health needs during emergencies.
- Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) allow public health experts to strengthen the nation’s response to public health threats by making medical countermeasures regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) available during emergencies.
- View the full list of tests that have received an FDA Emergency Use Authorization.
Learn more about the testing approval and validation process: